On the Campaign Trail (late July)

A lot has happened on the campaign trail since last we took a look. The most obvious and most important is the Democratic Party’s new best friend, Donald Trump. The Donald may do more to drive moderate Republicans and independent-leaning voters into Democratic arms than anything any Democrat could ever say or do.

trumpThe Donald, of course, is an idiot: from his fact-challenged blathering about Mexicans to his astonishingly ignorant attack on John McCain, he is nothing if not reminiscent of something we all learned about in school: the Know-Nothing Party. Here’s how Wikipedia – yes, The Curmudgeon knows, not exactly an authoritative source on anything beyond the time of day but good enough for this particular purpose – describes the Know-Nothings:

The Native American Party, renamed in 1855 as American Party, and commonly named Know Nothing movement, was an American political party that operated on a national basis during the mid-1850s. It promised to purify American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values and controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant men.

If nothing else, The Donald is a modern Know-Nothing. In fact, he’s the head Know-Nothing, the grand poobah of Know-Nothingness.

But there were other amusing things taking place on the campaign trail as well, so let’s take a look. (And for this edition, The Curmudgeon is going to skip The Donald. He’s headline news every day and if you’re the kind of person who’s read this far you’ve probably already seen all those headlines and at least skimmed most of those stories, so there’s no point in telling you things you already know – no matter how much fun they are.)

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush faces the same problem his father did – and his brother, to a lesser degree: the perception that he’s not conservative enough for the voters who have hijacked his party. He has a head start on overcoming this challenge because it turns out that Jeb has a bit of Nathaniel Hawthorne in him.

Nathaniel Hawthorne – you know, as in The Scarlet Letter.

Jeb’s 1995 book Profiles in Character included a chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame” in which he wrote:

One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.

The Huffington Post also reported that

scarlet letterBush points to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red “A” for “adulterer” on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview. “Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots,” Bush wrote.

As governor of Florida in 2001, Bush had the opportunity to test his theory on public shaming. He declined to veto a very controversial bill that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption. He later signed a repeal of the so-called “Scarlet Letter” law in 2003 after it was successfully challenged in court.

Bush’s ideas about public shaming extended beyond unwed parents. He said American schools and the welfare system could use a healthy dose of shame as well. “For many, it is more shameful to work than to take public assistance — that is how backward shame has become!” he wrote, adding that the juvenile criminal justice system also “seems to be lacking in humiliation.”

Jeb also wrote that

In the context of present-day society we need to make kids feel shame before their friends rather than their family. The Miami Herald columnist Robert Steinback has a good idea. He suggests dressing these juveniles in frilly pink jumpsuits and making them sweep the streets of their own neighborhoods! Would these kids be so cavalier then?

It seems safe to expect that while daddy extolled the virtues of “a kinder and gentler society” and brother W. talked about “compassionate conservatism,” Jeb is going to be all about “shame and defame.”

Jeb also thinks the economy’s lagging because Americans don’t work hard enough. Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families,” he declared.

Actually, Jeb, we’re already working longer hours. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman explains.

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.”

According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave.

And the productivity of American workers? Up seventy-five percent between 1979 and 2012 and up nearly twenty-five percent between 2000 and 2012 alone.

Jeb needs to get out more.

But ignorance of the facts is unlikely to be much of a deterrent to saying stupid things. The next thing you know, he’ll be complaining about the forty-seven percent.

Actually, he’s already started.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week, Jeb was confronted about his suggestion earlier in the week that Medicare should be phased out.   One woman declared that “We’re not going to have adequate coverage for our children or our grandchildren without Medicare. I paid into that for years and years just like all these other seniors here and now you want to take it away?” Apparently bumfuzzled, Bush replied that “Here’s what I said: I said we’re going to have to reform our entitlement system. We have to.”

Undaunted, the woman replied: “It’s not an entitlement. I earned that.”

Which, after seeing Medicare payroll deductions from her earnings her entire career, she absolutely did.

Welcome to the campaign trail, Jeb. You’re not in Florida anymore. And your spokesperson who characterized the woman as a “liberal activist” needs to find a position in your campaign more suited to her abilities because you can’t simply dismiss people who raise legitimate issues by pretending there’s something wrong with them just because they did so.

Finally, Jeb is trying to position himself as a Washington outsider. Who knew he had such a sense of humor?

Poor Bobby Jindal

Remember when you were in school and were confronted with the old riddle “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, did it make a sound?” Well, that seems to apply to Poor Bobby Jindal’s official announcement that he’s running. When people announce that they’re running for president they usually make a bit of a splash. Poor Bobby’s announcement caused barely a ripple – if that. Practically no one noticed because practically no one takes him or his candidacy seriously.

Continuing his long-time practice of talking to voters like he’s talking to a child, Poor Bobby declared that “We have a bunch of great talkers running for president. We’ve had enough of talkers. It is time for a doer.”

Now The Curmudgeon is willing to go along with Poor Bobby on the idea that members of Congress who are running for president are talkers, but that’s mostly what members of Congress do, right?

But governors? That’s just not fair. Governors are the real doers in this country, and whether you like them or not – and The Curmudgeon is confident that you know where he stands on most of the candidates who are or have been governors – the idea that Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, and Rick Perry are talkers and not doers is ludicrous. Likewise, any suggestion that people like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, and even The Donald, haven’t been doers for most or all of their professional lives is downright ignorant.

But then again, that’s just so Poor Bobby, isn’t it?

The Washington Post described Poor Bobby as “…the first Indian American to become a U.S. governor and now, to become a serious presidential candidate.”

Well, that’s just so not true, isn’t it?   What is true is that the only people who take Poor Bobby’s candidacy seriously share his last name.

bobbyMaybe The Curmudgeon is being too hard on Poor Bobby – including by referring to him as “Poor Bobby.” Actually, Poor Bobby’s real first name is “Piyush,” but at the age of four he so identified with the Brady Bunch character of that name that he insisted on taking it as his own.

Oh well, it could’ve been worse. He could’ve identified with Cindy.

Scott Walker

Walker’s candidacy is built upon the foundation of his successful effort in Wisconsin to remove the testicles from public employee unions, but he knows that if he wants to become president he’s going to need to do more than that.

So there’s guns.

walkerWalker, you see, is all for ‘em. In fact, when it comes to guns, he’s Walker, Wisconsin Ranger. (Not to be confused with Walker, Texas Ranger, who’s solidly in the Huckabee camp.)

As governor, he recently signed two new gun laws: the first eliminates the forty-eight-hour waiting period to buy a gun – apparently, if someone wants to kill someone, Walker doesn’t want to give him a chance to wait around and maybe cool off – and the second permits off-duty and retired police officers to carry concealed weapons in public schools because there are apparently some pretty menacing third-graders in Wisconsin.

And there’s gays, too.

Walker wants to protect our children from gay men – and especially our Boy Scout children, because he apparently is unaware there’s a difference between homosexuality and pedophilia. In Walker’s mind, every gay man’s a perv and every Boy Scout needs to be protected from pervs.

Come to think of it, maybe Walker should take a similar approach to priests.

As reported by the Washington Post,

“I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values,” Walker told the Independent Journal Review, a popular news site with a young conservative following that published his comments on Tuesday afternoon.

walker boy scoutA spokesperson for Walker’s campaign added that

The previous policy protected Scouts from the rancorous political debate over policy issues and culture wars. Scouts should not be used as a political football on issues that can often be heated and divisive.

Well, that solves that problem, right? Now, the subject can’t possibly become a political football and be used as a divisive issue, right?

Ultimately, Walker’s running for president because god wants him to run for president. Don’t believe The Curmudgeon? Here it is in Walker’s own words:

This is God’s plan for me and I am humbled to be a candidate for President of the United States.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee took time away from trying to convert the U.S. to his church to observe that since Bill deBlasio took over as mayor of New York City and pulled back on the city’s “stop and frisk” police tactics, shootings in the city are up twenty percent.

There are a few problems with this assertion, beginning with that it’s not true.

A court found New York City’s application of “stop and frisk” unconstitutional. The city was appealing the decision but was expected to lose, so deBlasio said on the campaign trail that he’d do what the courts were already planning and order the city’s police department to end stop and frisk.

But the shootings aren’t up twenty percent. Not even ten percent. Try 6.6 percent. Not good, but not twenty percent.

commandmentSo Huckabee’s a little off; apparently, this very religious guy was absent the day his minister taught about the ninth commandment’s proscription against lying. Of course, you can be that way when you’re a commentator on Fox News, where facts are never allowed to get in the way of a point you’re trying to make, but Huckabee needs to learn that when you’re on the campaign trail lots of people are listening and some of them are going to check out what you’re saying to try to figure out if it’s really true.

So lying’s not such a good idea.

Rand Paul

Rand Paul is a libertarian who likes to talk about how oppressive federal regulations are, and on the campaign trail last month he told the story of a man who spent ten years in jail for having dirt on his land.

Except that’s not what happened.

The man in question purchased 2600 acres of land in Mississippi with the intention of building a mobile home park (and future tornado target) on it. When he started work, regulators told him he lacked the permits necessary for such development. He ignored them. They told him that half of the land was considered wetlands and therefore could not be developed in the manner he intended. He ignored them, too. The guy then advertised and sold some of the land for mobile home use even though he didn’t have permission to do any of this. So he and his partners, including his daughter, were indicted and convicted of forty-one counts of conspiracy to defraud, environmental violations, and mail fraud.

Not for having dirt on their property.

But Rand Paul’s not going to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of his screed against government regulations.

Since we blew the cover off Poor Bobby Jindal’s actual first name it seems only fair to report that Rand Paul’s first name is really Randall but growing up he was always called Randy, not Rand, until his wife decided that “Rand” sounded more grown-up. That’s unfortunate, because if he went by Randy we could have so much fun with that:

Once a doctor of the eye

Now a really scary guy

Running like his dad

A guy who’s just as mad

What planet are you from

Oh Randy

Yes you came, and you spoke, and we loved it

Oh you’ve stolen our hearts, oh Randy.


Called to run for president

A candidate so heaven-sent

Hating public schools

Okay guns for all those fools

The voters going wild

Oh Randy

Yes you came, and you spoke, and we loved it

Oh you’ve stolen our hearts, oh Randy.


Ideas from 1893

Throwback to that century

ISIS is okay

But send Medicare away

Reject disaster aid and keep civil rights at bay

Oh Randy

Yes you came, and you spoke, and we loved it

Oh you’ve stolen our hearts, oh Randy.


No more regulation

Call for isolation

Don’t care about Iran

All abortions we should ban

Oh Randy

Yes you came, and you spoke, and we loved it

Oh you’ve stolen our hearts, oh Randy.

(Yes, yes, he knows: The Curmudgeon shouldn’t give up his day job.)


Ted Cruz

Cruz came out recently in support of a couple that refused to host a gay wedding at their wedding facility. This appears to make Cruz the pro-discrimination candidate. The Curmudgeon wishes him well with that. See his conversation with the couple here.

You wonder how Cruz would feel if the couple refused to host a wedding for an Hispanic couple.

Ben Carson

This whole Planned Parenthood flap is a fabrication: opponents have made an accusation that they illustrate with a heavily edited tape, but when you see the complete, unedited tape their allegations have about as much credibility as a Fox News analysis.

But Ben Carson, bless his heart, has a whole different beef with Planned Parenthood: he says the organization was created in part to eliminate black people.

Yes, he really said that.

And to think they let this guy use a scalpel.

Rick Santorum

It’s hard to believe that 2012’s candidate of the lunatic fringe is now just a garden-variety lunatic, but Santorum hasn’t been able to beg, steal, or borrow any attention on the campaign trail because he can’t figure out how to say anything more outrageous than, say, The Donald, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson. So he has a new tactic.

When in doubt, blame the women-folk.

Specifically, Scott Walker’s wife doesn’t share her husband’s opposition to gay marriage, and Santorum’s none too happy about that.

Explained one published report,

“Spouses matter,” Santorum said in an interview Monday. “When your spouse is not in-sync with you — particularly on cultural issues, moral issues — [you] tend not to be as active on those issues.”

That’s pretty bizarre logic – and maybe the first time Santorum’s publicly expressed respect for women – but then, considering the source, it’s not entirely surprising.

Author: foureyedcurmudgeon

The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon is a middle-aged male who is everything right-wing America despises: he is a big-city, ivy league-educated, liberal Jew. He currently resides in a suburb of Philadelphia. He chooses anonymity for the time being because this is his first experience blogging and he wants to get comfortable with it, and see if he likes it, before he exposes himself (figuratively speaking, of course) to the world.

2 thoughts on “On the Campaign Trail (late July)”

  1. Hard to believe that there’s still more than a year to go before the next election. Glad the Republicans have given you so much material to work with…and you haven’t even stated on the Dems yet!

    1. So many Republicans, so little space and time. It’s sometimes hard to resist making this space all about them and nothing else but there are too many other oxes (oxen?) to gore. Still, maybe a second blog… On second thought, no. One is quite enough.

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